3 Jun 2021

'More need for compassion' from some landlords - Housing Minister

From Checkpoint, 5:12 pm on 3 June 2021

Housing Minister Megan Woods is encouraging some landlords to show more compassion to ease the country's housing crisis.

Woods was at the opening of two new Salvation Army social housing developments in Auckland today - at Westgate and Flat Bush.

The Westgate complex has 22 homes, while 46 units have been built in Flat Bush. Both have community facilities and chaplaincy support where needed.

Woods said it was an exciting development, and the government had a 25-year contract with the Salvation Army for the places.

"This is a real example of how you have the community sector and the government coming together in a partnership. Long term contracting, long term relationships allows the community provider, the Salvation Army in this case, to finance the capital cost of the build."

Woods said this project of warm homes was "exactly the vision of how we'd like to see our public housing pipeline look".

Families moving in said the new places were a blessing as they were not being given a fair shot by private landlords.

They included Legrand Tauaalo and his two kids, who had been living in motels since November.

"It's been a struggle to find housing, but I reached out to Salvation Army and they provided and I'm so grateful," Tauaalo said. 

He is one of 22,500 people on the public housing waitlist - his kids are among the 4000 living in motels - and was viewing seven houses a week in his search for a home and was being turned down every time, he said.

"Maybe it's the colour of my skin, you know?

"I've been putting in for so many houses for the past six or seven months and I get turned down and you still see the property up for rent on the market for the next three, four months."

Tauaalo and his whānau will move into their new place in two weeks - today it was on show for Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern.

New Zealand was still in the thick of the housing crisis and the government was doing everything it could - including supporting private rentals, she said.

"We've got information and data that tells us that actually people are often coming from private rentals before they fall into transitional housing or emergency housing.

"We've started a programme to help people sustain their tenancies, so if they miss a payment we're there to support them so that they don't lose their home, their community, their schooling for their whānau."

It would take everyone to sort out the housing crisis, Ardern said, and Woods agreed saying the government wanted private investors and developers to help.

There was room for some to do better, she said.

"I think there are a number of really good landlords and I think we all meet them when we're out and about - but certainly, with some landlords - as there is in any sector of society - yes, there is more need for compassion."

The government was not relying on compassion to deal with the housing crisis and had also reformed tenancy laws to ensure they were fit for the 21st century, Woods said.

Housing Minister Megan Woods said the government is also expanding the rules so that more people will only need a 5 percent deposit before first home buyers can apply for support.

Megan Woods. Photo: RNZ/Samuel Rillstone